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Sounds of Francis Jackson

Sounds of Francis Jackson cover picture

Organ works of Francis Jackson

March in C (Opus 109)

Prelude and Fugue in C (Opus 43a) "The Brook"

Sonata no. 3 (Opus 50)
Allegro placido

Prelude on an American Folk Hymn (1973)

Festival Toccata (Opus 37)

Improvisation on a Chant

Partita on a Somerset Carol (Opust 45 no. 3)

Toccata, Chorale and Fugue (Opus 16)

Total playing time 71m 41s

Sounds of Francis Jackson

Simon Nieminski

Sounds of Francis Jackson

Organ works of Dr Francis Jackson played by Simon Nieminski in St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh.

March in C (Opus 109)

This work is a material link between the composer and the performer on this CD, having been requested by Simon Nieminski for his marriage to Jane Smith at St Mary’s Cathedral in 1999. The central section makes use of a theme from the composer’s Missa Matris Dei

Prelude and Fugue in C (Opus 43a) “The Brook”

This was commissioned for the re-opening, after restoration, of the Victorian organ in the parish church of St Neots in the summer of 1972. Though barely finished, it was duly performed (by the composer), but then lay in disuse until twenty-four years later when it was rediscovered, revised and at last satisfactorily completed.

The two movements are inter-related, the first four notes of the prelude – an important element throughout – being the Answer (in a fugal sense) to the corresponding notes of the fugue subject. The fugue is academic in design and construction, but a poetical slant, provided by the burbling, babbling nature of the prelude (a figuration which re-appears later in the fugue) gives rise to the title: translated into German, it becomes the name of the greatest and best-loved of all fugue-makers, J S Bach.

Sonata no. 3 (Opus 50)
Allegro placido – Andante – Vivace

The Third Sonata was written, like its predecessors, in celebration of a particular organ. In this case, it is the famous Schulze organ in the church of St Bartholomew at Armley, which dates from 1897. The Sonata was first played by the composer, at Armley, in June, 1979. It is dedicated to the soprano Elsie Suddaby (a relative of Dr Jackson) who was born within sight of the church in the organ’s fifteenth year, and who died in April 1980.

The first movement Allegro placido is pastoral and contemplative in character; the Andante is a rondo in siciliano rhythm; and the Vivace, also in compound time, is a variant of the first movement.

Prelude on an American Folk Hymn (1973)

The tune is ‘Lonesome Valley’, and the Prelude was written for an anthology of voluntaries based on tunes in ‘More Hymns and Spiritual Songs’, a supplement to the American Episcopal Hymnal (1940), which was published in 1973.

After a short introduction, the tune is heard in the tenor, next in the treble and finally again in the tenor, though this time more loudly. The piece ends quietly.

Festival Toccata (Opus 37)

Festival Toccata was written for the West Riding Cathedrals Choir Festival and is dedicated to the memory of Brian Runnett, organist of Norwich Cathedral, tragically killed in a road accident in 1970 at the age of thirty-five.

Improvisation on a Chant

The Improvisation was heard in York Minster as the choir entered for Evensong on the twenty-fourth day of a certain month, when Psalm 115 was to be sung to the chant in E by Sir John Goss. It was later transcribed from tape and offered to Lloyd Smith, a well-known York organist, as a present for his seventieth birthday in March 1988.

Partita on a Somerset Carol (Opus 45 no. 3)

This Partita was written for a carol concert in the chapter house of York Minster at Christmas 1975 for an organ of 6 stops, one manual and a pedal reed.

Its nine variations are mostly a light-hearted pastiche, the first with a right-hand decoration of the left-hand theme. The flutings of number two bear in mind the kind of instrument used by Haydn for his Flötenuhrstücke (Pieces for a Musical Clock). A gruff third variation follows in which the theme disappears. The fourth is all saccharine sweetness, no holds barred. Next, the pedals take full charge, with sly glances in the direction of Bach. A canon follows – at the octave – and then a feather-weight scherzando containing, again, succulent harmonies.

Number eight looks at the Overture to Handel’s Messiah, both sections, and is joined to the Finale (variation nine) by a dominant pedal, after which the tune goes to the pedals beneath contrapuntal imitations and semi-quaver figurations, rather suggesting Dupré and his Variations sur un Noël, perhaps inevitably.

Toccata, Chorale and Fugue (Opus 16)

Written in 1955, this work is dedicated to Dr Healey Willan (1880-1968), the highly honoured London-born composer of organ and church music who settled in Toronto in 1913. Its influences are mainly French, from the dotted rhythm of the opening, suggestive of the 18th Century French overture, to the highly coloured harmonic language reminiscent of Franck. Dr Jackson also follows the precedent, set by Franck, of inserting a middle movement between the Prelude and Fugue. This pattern was also followed by Dr Willan in his Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue of 1916.

The Toccata is in Sonata form, and much use is made of the theme of the introduction, though in regular, undotted, note-lengths. This theme eventually assumes greater importance than the second subject of the Toccata, which is not heard in the two later movements. The Chorale is built up from the upward leap of a seventh in the initial anacrusis, and part of the Toccata theme. The Fugue begins with its own independent subject (which was foreshadowed in the introduction), but as soon as the exposition is completed, the episode which follows – in inverted double counterpoint – begins to admit the semi-quaver figure of the Toccata. From this point onwards there is no restraining all the other themes from the Toccata (except the second subject) and the introduction, from entering and tumbling over each other in the intricate contrapuntal hurly-burly.

These notes are prepared from material kindly supplied by the composer.

Andrew Parnell
February 2002

Simon Nieminski

Simon Nieminski studied initially with Nicholas Danby at the Royal College of Music, where he gained the Associate diploma. He was then awarded the Organ Scholarship of Pembroke College, Cambridge. After graduating with honours in music from Cambridge University, he was appointed Organ Scholar of York Minster for two years, during which time he became a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists. He left York to become Assistant Organist of Dundee Cathedral.

After returning to London, he was appointed Assistant Director of Music at the Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great, in the City of London, and Organ Tutor at Kingston University. In addition to playing and teaching, he regularly conducted the professional choir of St Bartholomew’s, and several semi-professional choirs.

He is currently Assistant Organist at St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh, which is unique in Scotland in maintaining daily choral services, with the trebles drawn from its own choir school.He is also Organist of Fettes College in Edinburgh.

Simon has taken part in masterclasses with Daniel Roth, Ewald Kooiman, Harald Vogel and Dame Gillian Weir, and his playing engagements have taken him around the United Kingdom, as well as to Sweden, Holland, Germany, the U.S.A., Malta and the Czech Republic. He has also played in recordings for BBC television (Songs of Praise from Yorkshire, Skye and London) and Radio 4, and live broadcasts on BBC Radio 3 and Radio York, Swedish national radio, and National Public Radio in the U.S.A. In addition to organ playing, Simon writes reviews and articles on church and organ music, which have been published in Organists’ Review and the Musical Times.

Francis Jackson

Francis Jackson, a native of Malton, Yorkshire, was a chorister at York Minster from 1929 to 1933. He was a pupil of Sir Edward Bairstow, organist of York Minster, and gained the Fellowship of the Royal College of Organists in 1937. The same year he graduated Bachelor of Music at Durham University, attaining the doctorate there in 1957. He was organist of Malton Parish Church at the age of sixteen, and succeeded Bairstow at York Minster in 1946. Francis Jackson has given recitals all over the world, and has made records both with York Minster Choir and of organ music. He has written extensively for the Church, and his output includes anthems, organ solos, organ sonatas, monodramas, a concerto, a symphony and some solo songs. He is an honorary Fellow both of the Royal School of Church Music and of Westminster Choir College at Princeton, USA. In 1978 he was appointed OBE in the New Year Honours. On retiring from York Minster in 1982 he received the Fellowship of the Royal Northern College of Music, the Doctorate of York University and, at the hands of the Archbishop of York, Lord Blanch, the Order of Saint William of York. His time is now devoted to composition and giving organ recitals.

Recorded in St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh on 24th and 25th October 2000,
by kind permission of the Provost.

Producer: Matthew Owens
Production Associate: Andrew Parnell
Recorded and edited by Lance Andrews